After 6-Week Break, COVID Briefings Are Back

Cases, hospitalizations are rising sharply
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2022 4:57 AM CDT
White House Holds First COVID Briefing in 6 Weeks
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha speaks at the White House.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, officials warned at the White House's first COVID-19 briefing after a six-week hiatus. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House's new COVID-19 coordinator, urged Congress to approve more funding for vaccines and treatments, the Guardian reports. "Without additional funding from Congress, we will not be able to buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one," Jha said. He said there has been a sharp rise in prescriptions for the anti-COVID pill Paxlovid, which he believes is why, "despite the very substantial increase in infections, we have not seen a commensurate increase in deaths."

At the same briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said COVID-related hospitalizations surged 19% over the last week and almost a third of Americans now live in areas where "we urge local leaders to encourage use of prevention strategies like masks in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatments," the AP reports. Most of the areas now seeing rapid increases in infections are in the Northeast and Midwest, but previous waves have shown how fast infections can spread across the country, Walensky said. Walensky and other officials said failing to take steps now could leave the country underprepared for a larger surge in cases this fall.

The warnings from federal officials seems "somewhat at odds with President Biden’s own stance," the New York Times notes. The president no longer wears masks in most settings and analysts say he is no longer treating COVID as his top priority. Biden "is managing a war overseas, the economy, inflation, infant formula, and as these things go, the pandemic is now seen by the public as one more thing," former senior adviser Andy Slavit tells the Times. "Of all the things going on, most people don’t perceive this to be the problem that it probably is." Biden's daughter Ashey tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, as did Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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